One of the great ironies in life is that you have to be a famous person, often an icon, before you become an infamous failure.
The list of the once illustrious/now disgraced is long and their names are etched in our minds.
Think of the free fall:
There is rarely such a thing as a prominent failure who was not once idolized for being on top of their game. The weird paradox is that to be truly infamous–the object of widespread hatred, disdain, disgust–you must first have achieved your life’s work at an exceptional level. In most cases, better than anyone else on earth.
There are no obscure devils of major proportions. No headline stealing slime
who have not, just moments before, charmed and even intimidated us with
their awesome displays of brains, brawn, leadership, insight.
To be truly infamous you must first have been blazingly famous. It appears
to be a social vindication of Newton’s law that every action has an equal
and opposite reaction. It is just that in these notorious cases, the role
reversal is played out in prime time.
Thinking back, it is hard to remember through the fog of car chases and
glove trials that OJ Simpson was once viewed as an example of human
perfection. That Madoff was viewed by the nation’s best and brightest as a
Wall Street miracle worker.
Similarly, if you look back at the once-stellar companies that topped the
early lists of Fortune 500 companies, many are now extinct or lost in
mergerland: Sperry, Douglas Aircraft, Sealed Air.
As we all seek to rise to the top, we should think for a moment of the
forces that bring the greats smashing back to earth.
Perhaps most telling and worth remembering, is that the 180 degree from fame to infamy is brought on by themselves.
Drunk with power is more than a cliche. It is a cautionary tale.